Britain looking at curbing migrant workers from EU - government minister

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 26, 2014 8:23 AM

LONDON (Reuters) - Limiting the number of European Union citizens who are allowed to work in Britain is among proposals to curb immigration being looked at by the government, Defense Minister Michael Fallon said on Sunday.

Fallon, whose governing Conservatives are coming under pressure to harden their line on immigration due to the rise in popularity of the anti-EU UK Independence Party, said that parts of Britain felt "under siege" from an influx of migrant workers.

Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to renegotiate Britain's ties with the EU ahead of a referendum on membership if he wins a 2015 election, and is due to set out in the coming weeks plans for tackling immigration.

"We are looking at the numbers particularly, is it right to allow huge numbers to come in particular sectors, in particular areas of the country without any kind of restraint whatsoever?," he said.

Limiting National Insurance numbers, required to work in Britain, was one idea being looked at, he said.

Outgoing EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has warned that capping EU migration would be in breach of the bloc's laws and would go against its fundamental principle of free movement.

"That is the current position. We are looking at changing that to make sure there is some control," Falcon said.

"We can't simply say that has been the rule for 50 years and it can never ever be changed, things have changed in Europe ... and we are fully entitled to say this is making a difference to us, that now needs to be dealt with."

German leader Angela Merkel was quoted in a British newspaper on Sunday saying she would not back restrictions on the freedom of workers to move around the European Union, but Fallon said she had not yet seen Britain's proposals.

According to official British figures, net immigration of EU workers into Britain in the year ending March 2014 was 131,000, up from 95,000 in the previous year. A report from the Office for National Statistics said employment of EU citizens was 17 percent higher in the second quarter of 2014 than it had been a year earlier.

(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Stephen Powell)